If you can read this, congratulations! You are not affected by the Digital Divide
The web can be a great thing. It allows us to stay in touch with people that we care about but might not get to see very often. The internet gives us access to countless amounts of information about anything you could ever imagine. All we have to do is type one word into the search-bar and pages upon pages of information regarding that topic will come spewing out. We can learn about the latest news and ongoing issues anywhere in the world. Businesses can take advantage of the web by promoting their products and services to a larger audience. The benefits the internet gives us are immense. But unfortunately, not everyone has access to it.
That’s right. According to Internet World Stats, the world’s average Internet penetration rate is 51.7%. The rest of the population is facing something known as the digital divide. The digital divide is exactly what it sounds like: a gap between those who have access to the web and those who do not. Multiple factors come into play when determining the cause of the divide such as location, age, race, gender, physical disabilities, or whether or not a person lives in a developed or developing country. However, there are companies and startup organizations that have been working on various initiatives to help close the gap both on a local and global scale.
Close the Gap
Close the Gap sounds pretty straightforward. It is an international non-profit organization whose goal is to seal the digital divide by providing pre-owned computers that are donated by either public organizations or medium-sized companies to developing countries. These computers are given to education systems, medical facilities, and social projects to help the community members develop computer skills. According to the site, Close the Gap has already received over 600,000 computers from all over Europe and is partnered with over 40 companies that provide either the digital technology or training.
Code2040 is an organization that offers programs to students, companies, and entrepreneurs for minorities, specifically those of Black and Latino decent, that teach crucial tech skills. The name comes from the year 2040, as it will be the first time in history that people of colour will make up the majority in the United States. It aims to ensure that there is equality within the wealth and race gaps within the technology world.
Code 2040 is based in the San Fransisco Bay Area- an area where many of America’s tech hubs are set up. The group also partners with Google for Entrepreneurs through a residency program, which allows the students a chance to create their own companies by working with other tech centres. This allows Google to benefit from Code2040, as it will be seen as a company that strives to help close the gaps of the digital divide by offering aid through this program. While the organization itself plays a significant role regarding equality in the tech world, it does not offer courses to people who are younger than university students. Due to its location, the organization is most likely to expand the economy within the Bay Area. Since they are in the technology centre of America, most people that benefit from Code2040 are likely to gain jobs and positions in this region, ultimately bringing more money into the Bay Area.
Despite what you may think, this corporation doesn’t deal with actual loons. In this case, ‘loon’ is slang for ‘balloon’. Project Loon is founded by X, a research facility created by Google that plans to launch large polythene balloons into the stratosphere that will bring Internet coverage to nations that have limited or no access to the web. The equipment that is used to transmit the signal from the balloon to the ground are the main parts of a cell tower and run off of solar panels.
X and Google have a lot to gain from Project Loon. Since they are the creators of this project, Google is the primary search engine that is used. This means that the company’s user population will increase, giving Google access to a larger amount of personal data. Don’t worry, this just means that they’ll track searches to customize the search-bar. Ads that appear on screen will also be personalized. According to Business Insider, Google also believes that Project Loon will bring in $10 billion, producing a significant amount of business for the company.
What else is going on?
Countless more startups are being created to help close the digital divide. Facebook has partnered with six other companies to create Internet.org, an organization that strives to bring cheap Internet services to developing nations. Hack the Hood is a non-profit that connects low-income youths to local companies and teaches them simple computer skills such as how to create a website. There’s also Internet Essentials, a corporation that has similar goals to Internet.org but focuses on American families in need.
It is not fair that half of the world can’t access the Internet. We need to bridge the gap between these two sides. The UN Sustainable Development Goals promise that within 15 years there will be work and economic growth, reduced inequality, and quality education worldwide. But to accomplish these goals our planet must be interconnected both in the physical and digital worlds.
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